miscellaneous commentary

Archive for the ‘Running’ Category

Huff & puff

leave a comment »

Went running for the first time in who knows how long. A month, at least. I honestly don’t think I’ve attempted more than 2-3 miles more than once this calendar years. And today’s output shows it. I somehow managed 2 miles in 20 minutes, which includes a couple 30-second spurts of walking to let my lungs purge themselves of the sulphuric acid that was building up. Man, I’m definitely out of cardiovascular shape! But still, 2 miles in about 20 minutes put me somewhere in the vicinity of a 30-minute-or-less 5K time, which is faintly reassuring.

On another note, I really dislike how the gym I go to has 10 high-tech touch-screen treadmills, and at any given time only 2 or 3 of them actually work. A few will always be turned off, a couple will have some red-text error message scrolling across the screen, and a couple more will appear fine but will be completely unresponsive to my fingers. If I’m lucky, I will get to the gym during that brief afternoon window when very few others are there, so one of the lucky working treadmills will be open, but otherwise I have to kick it with the elliptical machines (groan).

Once I overheard a staff member (some teeny bopper know-it-all) complain after another member (a middle age woman) mentioned the chronic un-working condition of most treadmills; the staff member whined “why don’t they just ask us to reset whichever machine doesn’t work?” To which I thought to myself “um, why don’t the machines just work?!?” These stupid touch-screen models are what replaced the tried-and-true button treadmills that served with honor at the old gym location further down on Main St for several years. These new models have been in service for about a year and already I can tell it’s driven away some members who used to be regulars.

I guess I should just not care about it — spring is upon us and pretty soon it will be warm enough to run outside (so long as the snow and ice is finally melted off the nature trails). At which point I will only use the gym to lift weights 2-3 times a week and occasionally get in some cardio when the weather is nasty.


Written by camcarlson

March 27, 2014 at 10:34 PM

Posted in Running

6 Years @ the Mandalay, 4 Years @ Snap

leave a comment »

This week marks the sixth anniversary of living here at the Mandalay. The apartment was a nightmare when I looked it over in early February 2007 and it wasn’t much improved when I moved in later in the month. The carpet was soaked in cat urine, the replacement fridge sat outside the door in a pile of snow, there were no blinds or curtains on any of the windows, and everything (and I mean everything) had been painted beige that day, so a musky fresh paint smell lingered all night long while I slept on my bed mattress on the living room floor. The good thing about living situations starting out so poorly is that they can only get better with time. In a bit of a coincidence, a snow & ice storm delayed my move during the last week of February 2007, and this week we were hit with almost continuous snowfall over 36 hours that resulted in a foot of fresh snow on the ground.

This has been the longest period of time living in one place as an adult, and it equals the length of time spent living in that 2-story house on Royal Drive between the 5th and 11th grades. In the six years I’ve lived here I have lived without cable television. I have a television and DVD player hooked up in the corner of the living room but neither are used much these days. Given CFU’s current basic cable subscription rates, I’ve saved over $1,300 over six years, not to mention who knows how many thousands or tens of thousands of hours not spent watching television… earmarked instead for movies, books and (since 2009) afternoon workouts at the gym or on the trails.

I’ve also neglected to paint the rooms a different color. The beige is boring, and once in a while I think about buying some paint, but I never follow through. I usually tell myself that I’d end up moving shortly after painting and therefore it wouldn’t be worth the hassle. However, during the summer of 2011 I did scrape the beige paint off the tiles on the bathroom walls and applied two coats of primer to the upper drywall. It looks better than it did before. That’s the sum total of my home remodeling.


In 2010 I began a comprehensive decluttering project. I purged two huge boxes of paper files, donated more than 90% of my books, magazines and movies, along with unused clothing and excess dinnerware. Presently the apartment is rather spartan in appearance, and that’s how I like it. In fact, I still feel it’s a bit cluttered, in the sense that it’s merely untidy. But hey, it’s a work in progress. This past weekend I finally sorted through a decade’s worth of film negatives, stored in two checkbook boxes. More than half were culled from the collection. In a bit of unfortunate timing, Porter’s closed their doors for good last week after 100 years in business, so now I need to find another business that will professionally scan the remaining negatives for me.


So, in 2009 I joined a gym. I had been growing my hair out for a few years and the rest of my body was following suit. I was pushing 200 lbs and I knew I’d have to get moving if I wanted to shed the flab. A friend recommended Snap Fitness, a 24/7 gym near the corner of 18th & Main. I walked in on the 5th of January, one of many new years resolution types, though I was one of the few who managed to keep up with it when spring came and most newbies fall off the bandwagon. I lost 25 pounds during the first few months and I learned how to run more than a quarter mile without running out of breadth, a remarkable achievement for someone who was never athletic growing up.

To my surprise, I’ve kept up with exercising for the past four-plus years. My attendance is a bit cyclical in that I’m at the gym 5-6 times a week during the late fall, winter and early spring, then less so as the weather warms up and I can afford to bicycle or jog on the nature trails. But even in good weather I try to go to the gym 2-3 times a week to lift weights.

A couple weeks ago Snap moved out of the cramped confines of its strip mall location and into the first floor of the renovated Oddfellows building on the corner of 4th & Main, right in the Parkade. There’s twice as much space, separate rooms for cardio workouts and resistance training, plus larger bathrooms (with a shower) and a wider range of weightlifting equipment. Some machines still need to be fine-tuned and, like the old location, a few of the treadmills seem perpetually out of commission, but I wasn’t expecting world-class service from a small-town gym. It meets my needs and I’m happy. The hard part, until the snow melts, is going to be forcing myself to get out of bed on the weekends and work out before lunch, something I used to do with solid regularity up until last fall.

Written by camcarlson

March 1, 2013 at 10:49 PM

Transition Vacation

leave a comment »

On the last Friday of August I drafted a long list of things I could keep myself busy with during the first week of September, my third and final week-long vacation from work for 2012. Random chores and to-dos that I had either been putting off for a while or had just recently reminded myself needed to be done.

As expected, I took a vacation from such tasks. My priorities for the week, in order: sleeping, watching movies, bicycling, eating out at least once each day, napping, reading, and more napping. I did take care of a few of the errands I had committed to the list, namely a visit to Hancock Fabrics for a button to fix my shorts and a zipper tab to fix my winter coat, and I donated a box of books to the Book Nook.

I like taking the first week of September off as I only need to use four days of PTO (as I automatically get Labor Day off) and the weather is usually going through a transition between summer and autumn. I intended to get in at least 100 miles of bicycling, but on a few days I found myself more in the mood to go jogging in the morning. I still managed about 73 miles, which isn’t too shabby.

I finished reading Film Magic by David Hutchison and read The Kon-Tiki Expidition, Thor Heyerdahl’s account of his South Pacific voyage in 1947 from Peru to the Tuamotu Islands via a balsa log raft of vintage Polynesian design. Both were good reads. I recommend the former to anyone interested in pre-CGI special effects and various film formats, and the latter to lovers of travel/adventure stories.

Though confined to the Cedar Valley, I managed to satisfy my various cravings with a mix of cheap in-&-out meals (Jimmy Johns, Pita Pit, Hy-Vee Chinese) and quality please-be-seated meals. Tuesday I feasted at Steamboat Gardens, enjoying two 99¢ Tugboats and a cool draw of PBR (!!!), all for $3.72. Can’t beat that!

Tuesday felt like summer: hot and windy. I nearly fried myself reading out on the beach at George Wyth. I considered finishing Film Magic with a couple pours of Millstream on the deck at the Cypress but when I bicycled by there was a sign on the door stating they were closed for that day only for renovations. I resigned to the old stand-by, the Panther Lounge, for the rest of that evening.

Wednesday I joined Sharina at Wasabi, the 1st St Hibachi restaurant, where we enjoyed scrumptious crunchy roles, red snapper and (types of sushi) for the criminally low price of $13. Thursday I dined at Rudy’s Tacos and kicked back with a couple cocktails in the Lava Lounge. Friday felt like autumn; nice and cool thanks to an overnight storm.

I finally subscribed to an online movie site – Hulu Plus, which offered a free one-month trial service. I went with Hulu over Netflix (for now) as Hulu has a bevy of Criterion films in their catalog, many of which I have wanted to see for years. Over my nine days off I watched Picnic at Hanging Rock, L’Atalante, Pandora’s Box, The Match Factory Girl, The Earrings of Madam de…, An Autumn Afternoon, Floating Weeds and The Only Son. All are great movies! The last three were made by Yasujiro Ozu, who also made Tokyo Story and Late Spring, which I’ve already seen and love both.

Saturday I joined Swestka at Highland Park for a revival of the old-time block parties they used to have each year. Joyce organized it and Dan manned the grills. Checker and the Bluetones provided quality live music. Joyce had asked Ben and I to man the beer kegs from 8:30-9:30pm but they had both been tapped out before our shift began. We helped tear down and spent the rest of the evening at the Ankrum’s, polishing off the remaining beer and burger patties and wrestling with their dogs.

Midsummer Roundup

leave a comment »

Halfway through the summer. The past few weeks have been spent working overtime during the day, practicing digital sabbaticals on the weekends and slowly plodding along with my twin archival and purging projects.

With a few exceptions, temperatures have been consistently in the nineties and the air stiflingly humid. Suffice to say, bicycling has taken a back seat to running and weightlifting at the gym.

A few good books read over the past few weeks:

-The Company of the Dead, an alternate history of the 20th century where the Titanic didn’t sink, the US loses WWII and the Nazis and Japanese control the US coastlines. In the new 2012 there’s a Kennedy working for the Confederate intelligent agency out of Texas, who kidnaps the current captain of the Titanic, flies him out of New York City in a German zeppelin, fights with samurai in a hotel in Tennessee and rallies Native Americans to fight a tank war in the Nevada desert while powering up a time machine recovered from Roswell in the hope of… well, I don’t want to give it away.

-It’s All About the Bike, half a history of the development of the bicycle and its various components, and half biography of author Robert Penn, traveling the world and spending an ungodly sum of money (as in over $5,000) to procure the best parts for his dream bike.

The Moviegoer, the tale of a man turning 30 living in New Orleans in/around 1960, during the week of Mardi Gras, who doesn’t seem to engaged in his job or his family or his meager circle of friends but is willing to flee with his cousin (I think that was their relationship) to Chicago, and somewhere in those 240 pages he goes to the movies too. That last one was so-so… the aunt had some good lines towards the end of the book.

A cold began working on me last Wednesday and unleashed its fury last Friday night. I was waylaid all weekend, downing 7-Up and cranberry juice and engorging on seasons 2 and 3 of The West Wing on DVD (I did manage to join Sam and Sharina for dinner and a roller derby double header at Young Arena Saturday night, but my finicky sinuses kept me from enjoying myself). Coming off a weekend of general lethargy and ill health, I’m trying to play catchup.

The A/C has been working more overtime than I have these past few weeks. I’ve turned it off for the rest of the night but it knows as well as I do it’s going back to the front lines tomorrow morning. Good thing my utilities are included in the rent.

Movies seen over the past couple months: “The Happening”, “Whip It”, “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter” (dumb fun), “Magic Mike” (believe it or not, there’s a story, but it takes second place to Soderbergh’s “Haywire” from earlier this year), “Ted” (funny but it’s a rental), “Tomboy” (interesting French film about an androgynous 10-year old girl), “John Carter” (not nearly as bad as the bad press led me to believe, but still… not good), “Margaret” (a movie written in 2003, filmed in 2005 and stuck in production and legal limbo until this year’s DVD release; a captivating original story with very good performances) and several DVDs I own (“JFK”, “Paris Texas”, “The Social Network”, “The Squid and the Whale”, “The Darjeeling Limited” and “Gimme Shelter”).

…and “Prometheus” — saw it twice, once in 3D; currently my favorite film of the year, so good and creepy, a modern prequel to “Alien”, a bit faster-paced with a few glaring plot loopholes but still a very solid piece of entertainment. Jim Emerson wrote extensively about this movie and its relationship to “Alien” and “2001: A Space Odyssey”. It’s a very good essay and worth reading, even for those who didn’t see “Prometheus”. Seriously, read it. Now.

Running & Pedaling

leave a comment »

If I run at the gym on Fridays it’s usually for an hour and I don’t push myself to go any particular distance (though I try, and usually succeed, in covering 6 miles or a little bit more). If I run a 5K during the summer it’s usually outside and so I don’t time it and don’t know how fast I’m running. So this past Friday, as I was pressed for time and didn’t think I could squeeze in an hour run, I went all-out on a 5K on the treadmill. I ran it in 26:45, which is pretty damn good given how sporadically I run a timed 5K during the spring/summer/autumn.

On the bicycling front, I bought a new chain and installed it last Monday but it was so insufferably hot outside for most of the week I didn’t bother hitting the trails until today. But the bicycle pedals much more smoothly now. I crossed 500 miles for the year — not too impressive given I was near the 1,000-mile mark about this time a couple years back. I think I’ll get in 1,000 or upwards of 1,200 this year. And I’m fine with that, as long as the time that would be spent cycling is instead spent running or at the gym or at least reading a good book.

So, the goal for the year is to get in 1,000-1,200 miles on the Raleigh and, with some consistent effort, reduce my 5K time to below 25:00. Wishful thinking perhaps on the latter, but I like having something to aim for.

Written by camcarlson

July 8, 2012 at 10:13 PM

Posted in Bicycling, Running

Springtime Miscellany

with 2 comments

Before Saturday night’s Black Hawks game vs. Cedar Rapids (which we won, 6-4) I met Ben and some coworkers for dinner & drinks at Steamboat Gardens. A bottle of Schlitz set me back one dollar, the onion rings were delectable and I was served with the largest tenderloin this side of Newton’s Café. In fact, in comparison, I preferred this meal, only because to the superior quality of the fries, thought I heartily recommend either of the tasty loins to hungry diners.

The Barge + $1 bottle of Schlitz... mmm mmm good!

Newton's competitor: the Iowa Pork Loin (c. Nov 2011)

I felt the urge to watch “Drag Me To Hell” during yesterday morning’s 5K along the riverside trail. Good thing it was in stock at Family Video; during the afternoon my interest shifted to “WarGames” but they don’t have that on their shelves. This morning the flavor in my mouth was the director’s cut of “Blade Runner” but now I’m feeling more for “The Testament of Dr. Mabuse”.

But I’m actually holding out on movies until I finish reading Ready Player One tonight. It’s a pretty good novelized mash-up between 80s pop culture, “The Matrix” and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo… which reminds me, I need to read the final book in that series.

On top of all that, I spent part of the weekend converting a number of Katya’s school performances from VHS to digital video (courtesy Micah’s EyeTV) and am currently embarking on another maddening archival project. Let the good times roll!

A who's who of CFHS theater c. 1998(?)

Out on the trails

leave a comment »

The weather has become much more springlike these past couple weeks, and I have taken great advantage of it. Last week I got in my first outdoor run of the year – a simple 5K along the nature trail. I didn’t go too fast, not wanting to push my legs too far too early (as I did last year), and I still managed to finish in under a half hour. Not too shabby. I’ve also had my windows open for much of the past several days, welcoming in some much-needed fresh air into the apartment.

I picked up my bike from Bike Tech last Saturday and took it for a quick spin. I reset the odometer and made a few adjustments to the spoke magnet and logged my first official mile for 2012. Yesterday I took it out for a real ride, along my usual route through the trail system – riverside trail, George Wyth, Big Woods Lake, Black Hawk Park and Island Park/downtown. An enjoyable 17-miler. I passed dozens of other bicyclists, joggers, walkers and pets along the way.

Early Sunday morning I was beset by a sudden, painful upper back/neck injury. I fell asleep on the couch watching a movie and when I awoke at 4am I could barely move my head in any direction without experiencing a sharp pain. I guess I slept in a funny position. Try as I might, I could not fall back asleep in bed, so I returned to the living room and watched a couple movies while the sun rose and the morning progressed. By the afternoon I had downed a handful of ibuprofen and muscle relaxers, which helped a little bit; I was able to lie down a bit for a short nap. Otherwise I spent most of the afternoon and evening lying on my back in the living room, the only comfortable position I could find.

Monday I was still in pain, and the muscle relaxers made me so incredibly drowsy at work that I had to resort to downing a bottle of Mountain Dew just to stay awake. Ugh. It’s been years since I’ve drank soda straight-up like that and it gave me some nasty heartburn, but it did keep me awake at work… just barely. Yesterday I felt a bit better; I could move my head around and tilt it back (but not forward) and could lift my hands over my head without wincing in pain – motor skills useful for putting on a shirt and shampooing my hair. Today the pain has downgraded to a persistent, annoying ache located around my right shoulderblade. My guess is that I strained a muscle or tendon and it’s slowly healing.

With the forecast calling for temperatures in the 70s through next Monday, I forewent bicycling today and got in a run, my first since Friday. Another half-hour 5K. Dozens of people out on the trails with me. I even noticed some buds on the trees and bushes outside the Mandalay… the groundhog was wrong this year!

Once it’s warm enough to consistently be outside during the week, I’m going to adjust my workout schedule to incorporate 2 runs a week and weightlifting at the gym twice a week. As much as I love cycling, I want to maintain a variety in my workout routine, lest I become bored doing the same thing day-in day-out.

On that note, I was reading the editor’s letter to the October 2011 issue of Cycling magazine last night… I was amazed to learn that editor-in-chief Peter Flax had driven1 100,000 miles in his adult lifetime (that is, he “is closing in on” that mark, at age 40). Assuming he’s been consistently bicycling since the age of 18, that’s over 4,500 miles per year. Good lord! I’ve logged somewhere around 4,500 miles since taking up bicycling in mid 2008, not counting stationary miles at the gym. If I cycled 4,500 miles per year between now and my 40th birthday, I’d still be shy of half his mark. Granted, he probably lives somewhere where he can cycle year-round, whereas I’d have to break out the studded tires and zip-ties to maintain my mileage.

1 yes, I am using the word “drive” when referring to cycling, as the person sitting on the bicycle is driving it, not riding it. A driver operates the vehicle; a passenger rides e.g. he is just “going along for the ride”. A cyclist is not a passenger on a bicycle in the same regards that a rider would be a passenger on a horse (which is one of the more ornery members of the animal kingdom, in my honest opinion, but I digress…). Many grammar sites suggest that straddling a moving object, such as a bicycle, a motercycle or a horse/camel/donkey, constitutes “riding”, but I would say that you can’t really force a horse to go somewhere it doesn’t want to go. Trust me on this. However, you fully operate the bicycle; that is, if you are not moving the pedals, the bicycle goes nowhere. The horse is free to go wherever it damn well pleases, which it can and often does. Oops, I’m digressing again…

Written by camcarlson

March 14, 2012 at 10:22 PM